Sep 15, 2012


Kach and the view from Demon Lodge (click for full size).
... in Chapter One of Exode....
The planet Hemmal has a long history of human habitation, but an even longer existence prior to the arrival of humans. Before humans were first brought to the planet, it was almost entirely a world of water and aquatic life. Located in a crowded part of the galactic core, Hemmal has periodically been irradiated by supernovae, disrupting the evolution of complex land animals.

Regardless of the supernovae, Hemmal has deep oceans and most of its continents are submerged: only the highest mountain ranges were above sea level when the pek arrived. A thousand space elevators were installed and they began the process of lifting water from the ocean into orbit. Swarms of nanorobotic devices penetrated the crust of Hemmal and sped up the planet's rate of tectonic flow and orogenesis, creating additional land and some dramatic mountain ranges, including Pelis Kel, where the planet's Buld population resides.

Parthney, Kach and Bakeko (rendered by DAZ Studio).
Artificial lifeforms, the pek, worked to terraform Hemmal for about six million years before the first arrival of humans on the planet. As mentioned previously, the original human inhabitants are known to the Buld as "Prelands" and my need to create a distinctive near-alien appearance for the Prelands was my main motivation for experimenting with Daz Studio 4.5.

Humans are the only form of life that has been introduced to Hemmal from Earth. However, those regions of Hemmal where humans live have been decorated with artificial lifeforms that resemble plants from Earth.

The Buld Clan originated as the group that serves as crew on a fleet of spaceships, most of which travel between the human-populated planets near the core of our galaxy. These spaceships cannot move at speeds above that of light, so trips between stars takes many years. The Buld were provided with artificial life pets that can take the form of small dogs, cats and other mammals. The non-biological pets are very clean and do not actually have hair, although they do have simulated whiskers.

The Buld who now live on Hemmal originated from the crew of a spaceship, and they brought their pets to Hemmal. At the start of Exode, Parthney and his cat, Bakeko, have been living at Demon Lodge for almost a year. Kach arrives at the Lodge for a visit, having heard that there is a strange experimental musician in residence. Kach is amazed to discover that Parthney is "false"; biologically a human male. The Buld are hermaphroditic, but they occasionally mutate and a child will revert to a human phenotype that is essentially identical to the humans of Earth.

Kach has been hiding the fact that she is false and is biologically female. Phenotypically Kach is not easy to distinguish from a typical Buld hermaphrodite. As a male, Parthney is obviously false and has never tried to conceal his biological nature. Kach and Parthney lack the special chromosome that makes the "true" Buld hermaphroditic and good hosts for nanites. Normally two Buld brains have a type of unconscious social recognition and resonance provided by communicating nanites in their brains (high density nanite regions shown in yellow, image to the right).

Upon meeting, Kach and Parthney feel a connection with each other due to the similar, if low density, distribution of nanites in their brains. Of course, Kach has never seen a human male before. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Parthney is soon on his way to Earth and he does not see Kach again for 15 years.

I tried using the animation feature of Daz Studio 4.5. If anything, the situation for documenting the Daz Studio software has gotten worse over the past 5 years...for the earlier version of DAZ that I used previously there was a partial reference manual....with DAZ 4 if you are lucky you can find an old tutorial on a topic for some previous version of the software (usually for Windows with features that are different than what is in the Mac version). I have a real talent for crashing Daz with my animations, something that has not changed from 5 years ago. I made about 6 seconds of animation; most of it I just recorded in the animation preview mode. Look carefully at the video (below) and you can see one second (30 frames) of rendered animation that took my poor Macintosh 26 hours to render. I used the "built in" walking animation, which apparently is just a temporary tease feature in the "free" version and actually costs $60.00.

Exode is under construction; collaborating authors are welcome.
Note: I later decided that sophisticated teleportation technology is available to the pek, making it much easier to remove "excess" water from Hemmal and expose the planet's continents.

Sep 12, 2012

Pelis Kel

Five years ago I played around with Daz Studio and made a few simple animations (example; also, a green screen example). The header image for this blog is derived from a Daz Studio rendered scene. I recently downloaded Daz Studio 4.5 and Bryce 7 so that I could find out if there has been much of a change in the rendering software during the past 5 years.
Pelis Kel mountains rendered by Bryce 7, Regina the bothet rendered by Daz Studio.
Muchlo with facial nanites morphed to Buld appearance.
After a quick try of Daz Studio 4.5 and Bryce 7, I don't see many changes from the v3 & v5 that I used previously. Even though my two core processor is driven by Daz Studio at "190%", it still takes a loooong time to render such images on my 6 year-old Mac. Daz is now available in a 64 bit version for newer machines.

My main motivation for taking a new look at Daz is that I've decided that for the story Exode, the pek will be visually distinctive so as to clearly distinguish them from humans. I've been playing around with Daz in an attempt to identify a simple alteration to normal human facial features that I can use to make the pek have unique appearance. The pek are a form of artificial life, what we might call robots. Although the pek on Hemmal normally use a slightly non-human facial structure, they do have facial-nanite implants that allow them to change their appearance, and they can take on a normal human appearance under special circumstances.

Muchlo with facial nanites morphed to pek appearance.
In fact, those pek who function as bothets are in a special category. Since bothets are intended to be visually appealing to humans and can serve as surrogate mothers, they can't appear too freakishly non-human. Muchlo is another pek who travels with Kach and visits Parthney at Demon Lodge. In the images above, Regina and Muchlo have taken on the appearance of a normal human, which for Demon Lodge, means the appearance of a typical Buld.

The Buld are a small minority group. The majority of humans on Hemmal are Prelands. One of the biological features of Prelands is that they only have one set of teeth, the 20 primary teeth. As adults, their jaws retain juvenile features and they almost never speak (they communicate "telepathically" using nanites that are integrated into their brains). On Hemmal, the pek who live among the Buld typically adopt the Preland facial features: the reduced, child-like jaw and distinctive blue eyes.

Typically, the pek shift towards a more Buld-like appearance when they are interacting with Buld who are, due to long acquaintance, perfectly aware that a particular individual is a pek. When first interacting with newly-met Buld, pek shift their appearance towards the classic Preland facial features so as to make obvious their identity as pek. These shifts in pek appearance are so carefully and slowly done that the Buld seldom notice them.

The Buld reside in one small region of Hemmal, the mountainous Pelis Kel area, and they almost never interact with actual Prelands. The Buld and Prelands have a kind of symbiotic relationship. In fact, the Buld originally came to Hemmal in order to study the Prelands.

Muchlo has a special reason for adopting the Buld facial appearance. Kach is a false Buld and she conceals her unusual biological nature. She has demanded that Muchlo pretend to be her human companion. In the first chapter of Exode, Kach is playing a trick on Parthney, which offends Muchlo's sense of proper behavior. Muchlo reveals to Parthney the fact that Muchlo is actually a pek and warns him that Kach has a secret, the nature of which is not revealed immediately (it will not be revealed until Parthney has spent 15 years living on Earth). Thus, the secret that is revealed in chapter one of Exode is Muchlo's Secret.
Ultrarender looks nice. I did a 30 frame render in Daz Studio 4.5 that took my iMac 26 hours. I've posted the video in my next blog post.
Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.
Izhiun's quest on Luk'ru.

Sep 4, 2012

Adding Rooms to the Bottom

I previously mentioned Richard Feynman's famous 1959 lecture "Plenty of Room at the Bottom". In the early stored-program computers of the 1950s storage of a few kilobits of data required bulky electronic devices that today make interesting museum pieces. Feynman said, "There is nothing that I can see in the physical laws that says the computer elements cannot be made enormously smaller than they are now."

How far have we come during my lifetime (1959 - 2012)? The first computer I bought (1985) came with 1,000,000 bytes of RAM in the form of microchips. I now use a USB flash drive that has 8,000,000,000 bytes of storage space.

Photolithography now allows the manufacture of microchip elements on the scale of a few tens of nanometers. Covalent bond lengths are typically just a bit less than a nanometer in length. Important biological structures such as the width of a DNA double helix, the width of a cell membrane and the width of a ribosome are in the range of 2 to 20 nanometers.

We can use a ribosome as a model of an artificial chemical nanite, a molecular machine that we might some day design and use for purposes such as repairing cells (medical nanites).

For stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe I often include nanites as plot elements and I can imagine McCoy sending a swarm of nanites into Chekov's brain where they quickly repair a broken blood vessel. I also like to imagine that swarms of nanites can slip into our brains and modify our mental processes. Also, I imagine that humans could be provided with nanite-based prosthetic devices (such as "facial nanites") that would allow for for shapeshifting disguises and voice alterations.

Hierions and Sedrons However, I'm not satisfied to stop with a nanotechnology that allows for the design and production of molecular machines. I imagine that the Huaoshy long ago developed a sophisticated hierion physics that makes possible a form of matter where the linkages between "atoms" are 12 orders of magnitude smaller than the covalent bonds in conventional matter.

Hierions and sedrons make possible zeptoscale devices that are much smaller than ribosomes. How much smaller?

Think about a 20 nanometer ribosome that builds a protein out of amino acids and compare that to a 5 meter paving machine. The ribosome is about 9 orders of magnitude smaller than the paver.

In my exodemic stories, the most technologically advanced humans (Overseers and Interventionists) are just starting to play around with chemical nanites. The Huaoshy make use of hierion-based artificial lifeforms (femtobots) that are as complex as a human being and which can easily slip right inside a ribosome and take control of which amino acids are built into the growing protein chain. A swarm of Huaoshy femtobots could invade your body and reprogram it to become a completely different organism. The Huaoshy femtobots themselves have true shapeshifting abilities and can form human-sized colonies that take on any convenient physical form.

Sedrons. In Exode, the humans, Fru'Wu and Nereids are starting to play around with hierions and use them for faster-than-light communications. Given enough time, a clever species can fully understand hierions and attain the ability to make femtobots. However, the Huaoshy have one more trick up their sleeves that allows them to trump even advanced hierion technology. By engineering the fundamental structure of space-time, the Huaoshy established for themselves a monopoly on the production of sedronic matter. This allows the Huaoshy to control faster-than-light travel through the universe. Further, there are “array sedrons” that can form a third family of stable molecule-like structures. The bond lengths in sedronic matter are only a few orders of magnitude larger than the Planck length, allowing the Huaoshy to produce a form of artificial life that has components (zeptites) about 12 orders of magnitude smaller than femtobots.

The Huaoshy do not share the secrets of sedrondic matter with more primitive lifeforms, allowing the Huaoshy to exercise essentially god-like power over other species even if they have mastered the use of femtobots. In particular, the Huaoshy control all travel through the universe at faster-than light speeds and they can easily take control of any femtobot or lifeform composed of conventional matter. The term "Huaoshy" essentially refers to a form of sedronic matter that constitutes the form of life that the Huasoshy have become. In practice, primitive creatures such as we Earthlings might just as well refer to the Huaoshy as "god".

Rooms have been added to the bottom
In Exode, the Huaoshy sometimes find it useful to provide some sedrons to primitive species so as to make possible faster-than-light travel. When granting such gifts, the Huaoshy are guided by their ethical rules and so they do not allow primitive lifeforms to even be aware of the fact that the Huaoshy hold god-like powers. Pathney and Koch are searching for the Huaoshy, but all that they really know is that they are trying to solve the mystery of human origins....they have no information about the true nature of the Huaoshy.

Being the first species to explore sedronic physics allowed the Huaoshy to become masters of the universe. Through long experience of interacting with more primitive species, the Huaoshy learned that is is for the best if primitives like we humans are not aware of the fact that the Huaoshy are responsible for the evolution of our species and our development of a technological civilization.

Although the Huaoshy are all around us (the Huaoshy have become a state of matter that is co-existent with our familiar space-time), they prefer that we entertain ourselves by inventing our own ideas about who -or what- is responsible for our existence. This state of affairs assures that when humanity does make contact with space aliens, the other lifeforms that we come into contact with, even if they are vastly more technologically advanced than we are, will also be mystified by their strangely inexplicable origins.

In his story Little Harmonic Labyrinth, Hofstadter wrote about the idea of a meta-genie, a genie who can be called upon by an ordinary genie to grant "meta-wishes". From the perspective of primitive creatures like we humans, other lifeforms who have mastered the use of hierions seem god-like in their powers, and will be mistakenly thought to have been our creators. For example, in Exode, humans learn that the Nereids have been influencing the course of development of human civilization on Earth. However, those technologically-advance Nerieds know that their own abilities arise from their advanced science and technology and that some other even more advanced force was responsible for their own biological origins. The Nereids have to expend significant effort trying to convince humans that they, the Nereids, are not the god-like creators of humanity.

Sep 2, 2012

Planetary Space Exploration: 50 Years

Back side of Moon
I was born in 1959, the year when seven Project Mercury astronauts were selected and construction of the Saturn rocket launch facilities began at Cape Canaveral. The obvious first target for manned space travel was the Moon, but scientists had their sights set on the planets. The Explorer 6 satellite transmitted television images of the Earth and began the study of Earth's atmosphere and cloud cover. LUNIK III returned images of the back side of the Moon. In exodemic stories I frequently pretend that the Huaoshy long ago established a base on the far side of the Moon.

Where is the carbon dioxide? You are standing on it.
Carbon dioxide. In 1962 the Mariner 2 probe went past Venus and its instruments confirmed the thick CO2 atmosphere, lack of a magnetic field and the very high surface temperature for that planet. The major component of the atmospheres of both Venus and Mars is carbon dioxide: 96% and 95% of the their atmospheres, respectively. Earth has a much lower fraction of its atmosphere as carbon dioxide (less than 0.1%), but even that much is important for our global temperature. Where is all the carbon dioxide on Earth? During the long history of the Earth atmospheric carbon dioxide has dissolved in seawater and been deposited in carbonate-containing rock such as limestone.

Due to Earth's active plate tectonics, subducted sedimentary rock can release the carbon dixode back to the atmosphere during volcanic activity. Keeping  reasonable balance between carbon dioxide deposition and out gassing is important for a stable biosphere. In my fan fiction X-Files/Star Trek crossover story (X-Seven) I included an Interventionist plot designed to speed carbon dioxide trapping in the oceans as a solution to anthropogenic global warming.

Water. Venus is hot and dry (although science fiction writers like Campbell wished that it might be wet). The combined effects of a location close to the sun and lack of a magnetic field probably means that for the past couple of billion years atmospheric water molecules were split apart and hydrogen was blown away by the solar wind.

This left Venus as a desiccated green house smothered under about 100 times more atmosphere than Earth, most of it heat-trapping carbon dioxide, resulting in surface temperatures above 800 °F.

At the other extreme, Mars is cold but it apparently had liquid water long ago. Antarctica probably has about 1000 times more water than the south polar ice cap of Mars.

In science fiction stories it is fun to imagine future cultures for which there are adequate technological resources for serious terraforming of planets. Mars is a better candidate for terraforming, but it is fun to imagine that it might become possible to float "cloud cities" in the thick atmosphere of Venus.

Polar Mercury base
Mercury is even closer to the sun than Venus and it is small, with little gravity to hold onto an atmosphere. In 1974 Mariner 10 flew by Mercury and confirmed that the magnetic field is only about 1% that of Earth's and there is essentially no atmosphere.

Strata to be studied by Curiosity rover
However, there are deep polar craters that might contain frozen water, making it possible that people might one day colonize parts of Mercury.

Right now the Curiosity rover is on its way to explore what appear to be sedimentary rock layers on Mars. It will be interesting to see if this mission can find evidence for carbonates or other carbon dioxide-based deposits, as was suggested by data from the Spirit rover in the Columbia Hills. Related Reading.

Future Mars
Ancient Mars
In The Search for Kalid I imagined that Mars had become the target for an active terraforming effort. Exode will end with the crew of a Buld spaceship taking up residence on Mars and initiating a terraforming process.

The Buld have access to some sophisticated hierion-based technology. In particular, the hierion-powered engine of their spaceship has taken them all the way from the galactic core to Earth. With a source of essentially unlimited energy, it would be possible to melt the ice caps of Mars and start warming the planet.

Oxygen. Another technology available to the Buld is nanotechnology. It is easy to imagine that a sophisticated nanotechnology would allow for efficient conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen and carbon compounds. It might be possible for self-replicating nanites to scavenge the atomic constituents from the lithosphere that would be needed to fully produce an Earth-like atmosphere on Mars. With hierion technology it might also be possible to harvest vast quantities of water, ammonia and methane from Titan and deliver it to Mars.

Nitrogen. The most prevalent atom in Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen. Nitrogen is the 7th most common element in the Solar System but it is about ten times less abundant than oxygen. During the formation of the terrestrial planets much of the nitrogen was lost by solar heating and blown away by the solar wind. Nitrogen is much less reactive than oxygen during planet formation and it is lost much more easily from forming planets than is oxygen. Nitrogen is probably present at relatively low abundance in the lithosphere of Mars (maybe about 10,000 times less than oxygen). Even so, it might be possible for swarms of nanites to mine and release enough nitrogen gas to provide Mars with an Earth-like concentration of atmospheric nitrogen (related reading). If energy is not limiting in a hierion-based civilization, it might be convenient to mine the atmosphere of Venus for both nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

Instant atmosphere!
Time. Given a hierion-based source of limitless energy and swarms of self-replicating nanites, how long might it take to provide Mars with an Earth-like atmosphere?

In the movie Total Recall an alien device is able to almost instantly manufacture an atmosphere for Mars.  Ah, the wonders of Hollywood.

In Hollywood anything is possible...

Magnetic field. Even if it were possible to provide Mars with an Earth-like atmosphere, it would also be nice to provide the planet with a protective magnetic field. In Exode, The Buld spaceship arriving at Mars first travels through the galaxy for thousands of years at a speed slightly below the speed of light. I assume that the hierion-based engine of the spaceship is able to generate a protective magnetic field and keep the passengers safe from cosmic rays. Hopefully hierions will also provide a way to wrap Mars in a protective magnetic field.

Exploration of the Solar System during the past 50 years has provided us with an increasingly detailed understanding of the planets. Science fiction stories need to continually adjust to the latest facts about other worlds. Many readers of science fiction are well informed about planetary science and upset when SciFi stories don't depict realistic conditions on familiar worlds like Mars.

I expect the next 50 years to be dominated by the study of extrasolar planets.

Pushing Potion

"Convex and Concave" by M. C. Escher
In Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter's story "Little Harmonic Labyrinth" the characters make use of "pushing-potion" to allow entry into fictional worlds such as that depicted by Escher in his drawing "Convex and Concave".

Pushing-potion is a liquid that when drunk by someone looking at a picture pushes the viewer into the world depicted in the picture.

Science fiction stories are sometimes set inside strange cultures where memories of the experiences of our everyday lives do not assist understanding of the motivations of the characters. If I, as the author, push you, the unsuspecting reader, into a truly alien fictional environment, is it best for me to subject the reader to a large amount of explanatory back story from an omniscient narrator or is it better to present the story from the perspective of a first person narrator who shares some of the reader's confusion?

Rebirth of Qattagon. In Assignment Nor'Dyren by Sydney Van Scyoc, the protagonist, an equipment repairman named Tollan Bailey, is not happy on Earth (an Earth of the near future where machines do all the boring work). He has a meaningless "job" where his employer pays him not to work and there is no real work to do.

His boss diagnoses Tollan as having been infected by a disease: the Protestant Work Ethic. Lucky for Tollan, he is sent off across space to a little planet where the inhabitants are inexplicably mired in a vast array of damaged and decaying equipment and nobody but Tollan has the skills needed to make repairs. Tollan has found the world that is perfect for him: he loves fixing machines.

Tollan's happy fate on the world Nor'Dyren is almost as magical as stepping into Escher's topsy-turvy "convex and concave" world where the woman at the upper left is going to go down the stairs and then exit stage right. At the same time, the guy on the ladder at the lower right is climbing up to the balcony where he will be standing 180 degrees flipped around on the other side of the floor that the woman will be walking on. 

I love the way that Sydney Van Scyoc was able to "push" Tollan into the alien culture of Nor'Dyren so as to simultaneously
1)  provide a way to put an end to the decline of Nor'Dyrenese civilization and also
2) provide Tollan with just the kind of world that would make him happy...he even gets the girl.

Tollan is the perfect "potion" for curing the ills of Nor'Dyren, a world that is just strange enough to induce in readers a rich sense of alien mystery and Sci Fi adventure. Van Scyoc was able to use third person omniscient narration but tell the story from Tollan's perspective while he struggled to understand the alien culture he had been suddenly pushed into. The omniscient narrator only dissolved the mystery of Nor'Dyren at the pace achieved by Tollan's rather bumbling exploration of his new world.

popping out of a world that you once inhabited
Pop-corn. Inspired by Assignment: Nor'Dyren, I've long imagined writing a story in which an unhappy protagonist travels to a distant planet and is lucky enough to find that the new environment is a perfect match to the protagonist's temperament. I've been trying to engineer the fan fiction story Assignment: Marune along these lines.

At the end of each of Vance's Alastor Cluster novels he leaves us with a young couple that is a bit adrift... after we finish reading the book we are forced to wonder: what are their fates? It is as if these couples have been dosed with popping-tonic or munched a bunch of pop-corn as the magical antidote to pushing-potion: they have been transformed and they no longer really fit into their world. Being softhearted and with a preference for happy endings, I'm strongly motivated to pull out the pushing-potion and move Vance's characters into a world where they do fit in and will be happy.

On the planet Wyst, the fanciful Jantiff Ravensroke saves and befriends an orphan nomad, Glisten, only to have her disappear into the wastelands along side the Moaning Ocean. At the end of Vance's story (with the help of the Conatic*) Glisten is not only reunited with Jantiff, but she has been cured of her people's odd compulsion to avoid speaking. But would Glisten be happy living on the tranquil planet where Jantiff was born? I think not. What about the planet Marune, is it a better fit for Glisten? We shall see. Something tells me that Glisten is not going to be content to simply sit at Yeak House while Jantiff is off on a mission and facing danger in the Rhune Realms.

At the end of Vance's story (Marune: Alastor 933), Efraim and Maerio must confront the fact that they are not really happy in their role as royal Runes. Is there hope for this couple? At the end of Wyst: Alastor 1716 the Conatic is prepared to start the difficult process of dismantling the great dysfunctional cities of Wyst, so it is not hard to imagine some social engineering for the world Marune. What if the Conatic assigns Jantiff and Glisten the task of working with Efraim and Maerio to start transforming the Rune Realms so as to put an end to the incessant feuds of the Runes? Can Jantiff and Glisten, if pushed into Rune culture, be the perfect curative potion for the social ills of the Runes?

Galactic Core.

I'm currently developing the story Exode, which takes a much less Earth-centric approach than previous stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe. For other exodemic stories I have often placed an emphasis on Earthlings who escape from Earth then live as Genesaunts on other worlds. There are such characters in Exode (Hana and Gwyned), but Exode begins
with Kach and Parthney who are born on a distant world (Hemmal) located near the center of our galaxy. Kach and Parthney are mutants who do not fit into the strange culture of Hemmal. They must be popped out of their own world and sent in search of a world that is better suited to them. I have the fun of toying with the idea that Earth's culture is the one that Kach and Parthney should be pushed into. They grow up ignorant of Earth, only knowing that they do not fit in with their home world. They discover that their shared mutation makes them genetically indistinguishable from the humans on Earth.

Original artwork by Lee Moyer

Within the Exode story, the Fru'wu are another humanoid species that evolved in our galaxy. With some help from the Fru'wu, Parthney goes to Earth as an Interventionist, but he ends up being captured by the Overseers  and he is returned to the Galactic core. He now knows too much and, by the dictates of The Rules of Intervention, he is not allowed to return home to Hemmal.

After a long mission on Earth (13 years), Parthney returns to the galactic core and learns that he is a father, Kach having given birth to their son, Boswei. Parthney is able to arrange for Kach and Boswei to leave Hemmal (pop! pop!) and they go in search of the aliens who are responsible for creating the human species. Hana (the woman from Earth) is on a similar quest and the four of them come together in their efforts...ultimately they are rewarded by their discovery of the fact that the Fru'wu, while using their advanced technology to support Interventionist missions to Earth, are not trusted by the Nereids. The Nereids are human-like aliens from the Andromeda galaxy who have taken an interest in we humans.....

Location of the Nereid world visited by Kach

Andromeda. The name "Nereids" is given by Parthney to the aliens who he and his travel companions meet upon reaching the Andromeda galaxy. The Nereids originated as otter-like creatures who returned to land and then evolved along humanoid lines. The Andromeda galaxy was reached by the Huaoshy before the Huaoshy came to our galaxy and the Nereids are somewhat more technologically advanced than are the Fru'wu. About 300,000 years ago the Nereids were able to develop their own hierion technology and put out of business the Overseers who protected and nurtured their species during its technological adolescence.

The Nereids sent explorers to our galaxy and they have long had an interest in helping humans develop as a species, but, knowing the primitive nature of Earthlings, the Nereids have been reluctant to interfere with the Overseers who still monitor Earth. The Nereids trust the Overseers to do a good job of protecting Earth and they do not trust the Fru'wu. The Fru'wu have been trying to obtain advanced technology from the more technologically advanced residents of the Andromeda galaxy, technology that will allow the Interventionists of our galaxy to gain an advantage over the Overseers. The Nereids have no intention of helping the Fru'wu, since they know how important it is for the rivalry between the Interventionists and the Overseers of any species to play itself out.

Hana has also been searching for her long-lost husband, but she finally learns he is dead, having been lost when he was taken on a Fru'wu mission to the Andromeda galaxy, the mission when the Fru'wu last tried to make contact with the Nereids. Recognizing the reluctance of the Nereids to help them, the Fru'wu finally decide to make possible a human-only mission to the Andromeda galaxy. While on that new mission, Kach and Parthney relentlessly pursue their quest to make contact with the Huaoshy: the aliens who are responsible for creating Nereids, the Fru'wu and the Human species.

Izhiun's childhood home
After learning the fate of her husband, Hana wants nothing further to do with aliens, Overseers and Interventionists. By this time, Boswei has fallen in love with Hana. They become colonists on an  Earth-like world in the Andromeda galaxy. Hana and Beswei have been successfully popped out of their home worlds, found each other, and been pushed into a new world where they are happy. They have a total of 9 children, the oldest being named Izhiun.

For Izhiun, worlds like Earth, Hemmal and Reahand (the home world of the Fru'wu) are like mythical fantasy lands, only known through comments made by Hana and Boswei. Parthney and Kach continue their quest to find more aliens, aliens who are even more technologically advanced than the Nereids. When Kach goes missing, Parthney fears that he has lost her to the Huaoshy. Parthney also fears that his descendants (like Izhiun) will never know anything about
1) the history of Earth as the origin world of humanity or
2) Kach and the story of her life and efforts to learn about how the Huaoshy created our species, and why.
Parthney writes down what he wants Izhiun to know about his grandparents and ancestors. Reading Parthney's account, Izhiun becomes fascinated by Earth, the world that Parthney claims is the origin of humanity.

It turns out that Kach was not captured by the Huaoshy, she is secretly working with the Nereids and has been sent to Earth in an attempt to penetrate the Overseer base on Earth's Moon. In order to carry out their plot, they need the help of a human who, unlike Kach, shows no sign of having been a host for nanites. Izhiun is recruited by the Nereids and ends up going to Earth. Izhiun is able to help Kach and the Nereids "liberate" Earth from the Overseers, although the Nereids have no intention allowing the Interventionists to have their way with Earth, either. Neither Kach or Izhiun remain on Earth. Kach returns to the Andromeda galaxy to be with Parthney and Izhiun finds a new task that I describe in outline, below.

I've been trying to arrange for Exode to be in an epistolary format, a nested set of documents authored by Izhiun, Hanna and Parthney telling the story of their lives and adventures. This approach to telling the story takes some extra work above and beyond what is required when a story is told by an all-seeing third person narrator, however, I have a special motivation for telling the story in this way. (Hint)

Speed limit. Sadly, it appears that the speed of light is the speed limit in our universe. When I started writing stories set in the Exodemic Fictional Universe I respected that speed limit, so it was important to pay attention to signals arriving at Earth by way of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Back in those days I was greatly influenced by An XT Called Stanley which has a first contact plot similar to that in Carl Sagan's Sci Fi novel Contact. A radio signal broadcast by aliens is received by Earthlings who must decode the transmission. In An XT Called Stanley the alien message contains instructions for making a fancy computer. The alien-designed computer is built and it becomes the host for an artificial lifeform, the code for which also arrives by radio signal from the distant aliens.

A radio message from aliens might be detected by SETI, but what if radio waves are not the preferred method for interstellar communications? Maybe next year we will discover an entirely unexpected means of more efficiently sending information across vast distances. Various advanced technologies for interstellar communication have been plot devices for science fiction including Asimov's hyperwave and Ursula K. Le Guin's ansible.

For Exode I adopt the idea that the Huaoshy long ago discovered a way to send information at speeds greater than the speed of light. I even wrote a story about the era long ago when the Huaoshy were not yet able to travel through space at superluminal velocities, so they made first contact with some other species by means of hierion-based communications technology. Species such as the Fru'wu and the Nereids are just starting to explore the science of hierions that makes possible faster-than-light communications. The Huaoshy are much older than the Fru'wu or the Nereids and we humans. In addition to having mastered hierion engineering, the Huaoshy have a very sophisticated science of sedrons which allows for faster-than-light space travel.

In Asimov's story Nemesis he imagined an intermediate step before the development of faster-than-light space travel, a way to travel at just under the speed of light. In Exode, the Huaoshy are in no hurry to provide their advanced technologies to lowly species such as we humans. The Huaoshy have been in our galaxy for the past 7,000,000 years and during most of that time they have worked to help native species such as we humans evolve towards biological forms that are able to sustain a technological civilization. The first such species in our galaxy to discover hierions were the Fru'wu, and they accomplished that about 50,000 years ago (spoiler alert: how the Fru'wu accomplished this dramatic technological advance is one of the major mysteries in Exode). After 20,000 years of effort the Fru'wu learned how to make use of hierions to move spaceships at close to the speed of light, making possible "generation ships".

The Fru'wu provided some of the humans living near the galactic center with generation ships. Those Prelands with spaceships became the Buld Clan. Working together, elements of the Buld Clan, the Fru'wu and the Nereids function as Interventionists, attempting to speed the pace of technological development on planets like Earth and Reahand. The dynamic equilibrium between Interventionists and Overseers is carefully maintained by the Huaoshy (without the knowledge of either the Interventionists or the Overseers) and creates the conditions under which a species like the Fru'wu or we humans can learn the wisdom of the Rules of Intervention.

The Fru'wu long ago provided the crew of one of the human generation ships with the coordinates of Earth, suggesting that although Earth is for from the galactic core, it was the origin world of humans. That ship has been on a thousand's-of-years-long journey to Earth, although, due to relativistic time contraction, the crew only experiences a couple of hundred years during the trip. It turns out that these Bulds are going to reach Earth just about now, which forces the hand of the Nereids: they can no longer stand by and let the dance between Overseers and Interventionists play itself out on Earth.

The Nereid Solution. In the end, the Nereids do not let either the Overseers, the Interventionists or the newly arriving Buld have their way with Earth and our primitive culture. The Buld spaceship is deflected away from Earth and Izhiun joins the Buld in starting the process of terraforming Mars. We Earthlings are confronted by the shock of knowing that humans are now colonizing Mars and they need our help. When going to join the Bulds on Mars, Izhiun leaves behind, uploaded to the internet, a copy of Exode.


*In the Alastor Cluster novels of Jack Vance, the Conatic is the hereditary ruler of the Cluster. The Conatic lives shrouded in mystery and often plays the role of a traveling journalist or minor government official in order to freely move among the people of the Cluster. (return)